The Visegrad group, a group of central European states consisting of Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Hungary, has revealed they will be willing to veto any EU-UK Brexit deal.
The influential group is an important force in the EU, representing central Europe with a unified voice and working in the interest of the central states.
The group have taken aversion to potential curbs on the right to free movement and the right to work. This stand is largely due to the fact that the citizens of Visegrad countries make up the largest proportion of UK migrants, and as a result any curbs will directly affect Visegrad nationals.
Should the UK try to curb the right to work or create a system where Visegrad nationals are treated unequally the group could veto a EU-UK deal, even if the rest of the EU, including Germany, agree.
Slovakian PM Robert Fico has said ‘V4 [Visegrad group] countries will be uncompromising‘, and then building on this announced that ‘unless we feel a guarantee that these people are equal, we will veto any agreement between the EU and Britain’.
Although Poland holds the Visegrad presidency the opinion of the Slovakian PM is not to be ignored. This is likely the current opinion of the group as a whole.
So what does this mean for the upcoming negotiations and the UK’s Brexit positioning? For starters, migration curbs to some degree are a red line for the British government. The wish to leave the EU was in no small part a result of the public desire to reduce migration, as a result the British government will be seeking changes.
This places the UK in a tricky situation. Should the UK want to retain access to the single market they will likely have to reduce their migration curbs to a level acceptable to the Visegrad group, but as the British people want migration curbed this is unlikely to be easy, if even possible. Single market access just became even harder to negotiate.
At the moment the proposed migration reform that seems to be cropping up the most is a ban on people coming to the UK to look for work, instead people will only be allowed to come to the UK if they already have a job waiting for them. Whether or not the Visegrad will consider this as reduction in equality and the rights of their citizens is currently unknown.
This reform is certainly a reduction in the quality of free movement but it is not technically an abolishment of it, as workers are still free to move, but only if they have employment lined up. This may be able to placate the Visegrad group and prevent a Veto occurring but is it enough to ensure single market access? Logic would suggest no.
It is looking as if the UK will likely end up with a trade agreement instead of single market access, the only question is what does the UK prefer more, migration control or market access? Because it is starting to seem that the more you have of one the less you can have of the other.